Published in St. Louis American, July 20, 2020
The man in the White House masquerading as a president flaunted his blatant disrespect of the law when he pardoned another one of his felon friends. At the same time, people like Lamar Johnson have been rotting for 25 years in a Missouri cage for a crime he didn’t commit. That’s why folks are still in the streets in righteous protests. It’s why St. Louis voters must re-elect Kimberly Gardner as circuit attorney on August 4.
Roger Stone was about to see how his fake gangsterism was going to hold up in federal prison until Trump came to his rescue. Stone was convicted of seven felonies including witness tampering, lying to federal investigations and obstruction of justice. Stone was stone-cold guilty of all the charges. Now, we’ll have to watch him strut around in the public square touting his victory.
Stone is the sixth Trump crony to be convicted or who pled guilty of charges coming out of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. However, at least 14 of Trump’s aides and allies have been indicted or sent to prison – all busted doing the dirty work of the president. These were the ones who got caught. The biggest crook of them all is still in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. For now.
The case of Lamar Johnson is tragic because of the corruption by St. Louis prosecutors who framed an innocent man and sent him away from his family and community 25 years ago. A double tragedy is occurring because there’s no reason for Johnson to still be incarcerated other than he’s a Black man and a Black, female prosecutor is trying to right the wrong.
Johnson’s case was taken up by the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) set up by Circuit Attorney Gardner when she was elected. These offices are set up to investigate claims of innocence. Cases are reviewed for troubling legal issues at the time of conviction and the emergence of new evidence. Gardner’s office did a thorough investigation and found several unjust atrocities committed by police and prosecutors.
Gardner’s conclusion led her to file for a new trial on behalf of Johnson, but last year Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hogan ruled that such a motion should’ve been filed with 15 days of Johnson’s conviction. Yes, Hogan basically said Gardner’s motion was 24 years too late. News of the ruling went national, and prosecutors around the country urged Hogan not to use a procedure to block justice. It fell on deaf ears.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt echoed that Gardner did not follow the proper process. Never mind that neither police nor prosecutors followed their respective processes in 1994. In fact, they broke the law. They have conspired to do this in many cases over many years.
The National Registry of Exonerations reports that there have been 2,644 exonerations since 1989 when it started tracking the injustices. There are thousands more people languishing in U.S. prisons while trying to prove their innocence. That’s a total of 23,500 years lost by victims and their families due to a racist, unjust system. The time and the life experiences can never be recovered.
Lamar Johnson and others whose cases have made their way to the CIU office sit in limbo as white folks in power try to keep the first African-American prosecutor in St. Louis in her place. It’s reminiscent of the Dred Scott decision – that Black people have no rights that white people have to respect, whether you’re a prosecutor or the prosecuted.
Voters will go to the polls on August 4 to vote for circuit attorney. If motivation is what we need, I encourage you to have a visual in your head of a white, pompous criminal walking the streets a free man while a poor, Black innocent man sits in prison.